Scottish Curling Champ Regions NHS Forth Valley Frontline
Two time Scottish champion Vicky Wright should have been returning home from the World Championships in Canada today, but instead she will be heading onto the NHS front-line preparing to play her part in the global battle against the Coronavirus.
The 26-year-old took time out of her career as a general surgical ward nurse, based at Forth Valley Larbert Hospital last year in a bid to chase her Olympic dream and, two years out from Beijing, she was part of the team representing Scotland that was among the favourites for the world title.
Wright and teammates Eve Muirhead, Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds and Sophie Sinclair had travelled to Prince George, on the west coast of Canada, earlier this month.
However, when one of the consequences of the pandemic was the cancellation of the Women’s World Championships on the eve of the event she immediately realigned her priorities.
“When we flew into Prince George after a few days training in Vancouver we were starting to become aware that the worldwide situation was changing and a few doubts and uncertainty about whether our champs would go ahead started to creep in,” Wright recounted, ahead of her return to duty on night shift tonight.
“We started seeing other big Canadian sporting events being cancelled and it became more evident then that our champs probably wouldn’t go ahead. We were out for lunch when we got the email and we went straight back to the hotel and it started to hit home, the combination of the disappointment, but also awareness that public health had to be the priority.
“It was a weird situation and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and we were absolutely gutted. But we could see how everything was quickly changing and we knew there were other much bigger priorities than sporting events which are now on the back burner.
“They have to take second place to what is happening just now and when I went into work last week at the hospital it really sank in. There was no world champs and the bigger picture was that helping out at home was more important just now.”
Even when she made the decision to work full-time on her curling, Wright had maintained her commitment to nursing by working part-time as and when she was available and she expressed gratitude to both her employers for the flexibility they showed in allowing her to dovetail her twin careers.
“Being a nurse has always given me a good perspective on life and kept my focus on what is important,” she said.
“In my nursing career over the years I always felt it was a privilege to be with someone and look after them when they were unwell and vulnerable and it has always made me appreciate the life I have, being able to work as a nurse which is a job that I love and also compete in curling which is a sport that I love.
“I have always been very lucky that both my work and the British Curling programme both appreciated how important both facets were to me.
“My nursing was full time and I juggled my curling around that, but in July 2019 my curling went full time. Both the NHS and British Curling enabled me to do one shift a week throughout this season. It was something I really enjoyed and I didn’t want to lose my skills and it was good to have something else other than just curling, it really kept me grounded.”
Frustrating as the end to their season was, Wright and, having won her first major international medal after playing in the European Championships final, she and her Team Muirhead colleagues will be able to draw on what was a fine season as and when the opportunity arrives to return to their sport.
“This season was great for us and we found our feet from the start and we really settled into our positions within the team and we were all committed to the same goals and wanted the same outcomes,” said Wright.
“The week at the Europeans was great, it showed that we were back and gave us a lot of confidence for the second half of the season. We started this year with a win at Perth and then followed that up with another win at the Continental Cup (helping Team Europe beat Team Canada on their own ice). It is a team event but every individual within that group has to play well and we knew we had all played our part and it was another great confidence boost.
“We felt we were going well and in the right direction and our coach Kristian Lindström joined us in the January and was a really welcome addition and has had to hit the ground running. As an ex-player at the top level we felt he could bring us that extra 1% we were looking for and we knew he would bring a lot to the table for the World Champs and would have learned a lot from him during that period.
“However now it is time to make a difference in a different way and I will now play my part in a much bigger team.”
Formidable as the challenge facing the NHS, Wright is as committed as she has ever been to what lies ahead.
“Once I was home I contacted my supervisor and said I was back and could be available to do whatever I could to help. For now I am picking up an extra 2-4 shifts per week for the foreseeable,” she explained.
“There is an amazing team spirit on my ward and as public transport is not an option now we are all helping each other out with lifts and childcare etc. so there is a really great team spirit and positive approach from everyone and we are taking this all in our stride and we will all pull together. We are fully informed and prepared so we are ready and it is nice to know that my curling team mates are so proud of me and want to help me as well in any way they can.”
However, she is also determined to stay fighting fit for her sport as and when this crisis recedes and normal life can be resumed, while she is drawing huge encouragement from the support she is receiving from her curling colleagues.
“They know it is my time to go back to work, but they also know I am still training as an athlete, like them,” she said.
“I am very fortunate that I am getting all the support I can get from the British Curling programme and (strength and conditioning coach) Harry Booker has developed a programme for me around my shifts so I have a routine.
“I find it incredibly important to have a plan and a routine for the week so I can incorporate my training goals around my work. Everyone can benefit from setting themselves a plan of action just now and targets for the next few weeks that they can achieve.
“I love my job and I love my curling so having that balance and flexibility really is the best case scenario for me. It is why I do it and why I need it and I am just so grateful that both parties see the benefits.”
Part of a family of emergency service workers, Wright also expressed her thanks to those who are recognising the need to back their efforts.
“Tesco opening for NHS workers in the morning is a huge help and it meant I could do all my shopping this morning in one big shop, so I have my meal plan for the week ahead when I will be busy working and I am very lucky that my partner Greg (Olympian and British Curling performance coach Greg Drummond) does all the cooking, which helps immensely.
“My parents feel the same way as me. My mum works in the NHS and my dad is a fireman, so like me they like to do their part. It is what we are all about and I am really glad I can go and do my bit.”
Photo credit: britishcurling.org.uk